Have you lost yourself in your phone?

In Augsburg there are traffic lights in the pavement for people who are absorbed in their phones

Commuters look at their mobile phones as they wait in line for a bus after finishing work in Hong Kong. Photograph:  AFP Photo

Commuters look at their mobile phones as they wait in line for a bus after finishing work in Hong Kong. Photograph: AFP Photo

 

Odd how smartphones can make tough guys look less intimidating. I used to be impressed by those grim-looking cops you see in cities such as Rome who sit in their police vehicles looking like they have breakfasted on football hooligans. You take one look at them and realise how very, very unwise it would be to get into an altercation with them. They are the original hard men.

Or were. The last time I was in Rome they were still there, but instead of brooding angrily on the annoyingness of the world, they had their phones out and were scrolling through Facebook or whatever it is guys like that scroll through.

Somehow it takes away from the scare factor when you realise that they are sitting there like everyone else, looking at pictures of other people’s perfect lives and hitting “like” or maybe even those little hearts Facebook lets you choose now. But it’s all part of that curious phenomenon in which phones have lulled us so far into their entrancing world that we are losing ourselves in them.

It was recently reported that the city of Augsburg in Germany has installed street-level traffic lights – essentially, lights in the pavement – for the benefit of people who may step in front of a tram because of their absorption with their phones.

Their installation followed the death of a young teenage girl who was fatally injured by a tram she hadn’t noticed.

A similar plan is under way in Sydney due to an increase in pedestrian deaths, some of which is attributed to mobile phone use.

I think these are good moves. We live in an age in which attention is diverted onto the devices in our hands and away from whatever else is going on in the world around us. Tut-tutting about it is pretty pointless – and coming from a generation who walked around plugged into Walkmans it would be hypocritical.

But cops should probably lay off the mobile phones when they are in public view. It ruins the image.

Good stress, bad stress

Jonni PollardBressieSusan Quirke

Good stress gets us up and going and gathers up our energies for a challenge but bad stress involves a lot of debilitating rumination and unnecessary physical tension and can be very harmful.

Among the ways recommended by Jonni Pollard for heading bad stress off at the pass is “communicate with yourself about how you are feeling and where you are at. Develop a strong dialogue and ask yourself questions. You’ll initiate a flow of communication and be able to pick up on stress turning bad earlier in the game. You can then instigate ways to make yourself feel more present, connected to what you are doing and capable of accomplishing the task at hand.”

I think the ability to talk to yourself in a helpful way, as opposed to just recycling negative thoughts, is very valuable.

American speaker and author Byron Katie suggests we ask questions about the assumptions we’re making. For example, “If I don’t get this completely right, it will be a disaster.” These could be questions like: Am I sure this is true? What’s it costing me to believe this is true? What if this wasn’t true? Her website byronkatie.com has lots more on this.

If you’re under pressure, I think you’ll find it very beneficial to ask questions like these instead of dwelling on the stress you feel. This works because in any difficult situation some of the stress we experience is warranted by the challenge involved but some – maybe most – is produced by how we think about it.

Lust for Life is constructed like a magazine and I would challenge you to read it and find nothing in it that interests you.

Padraig O’Morain is accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His latest book is Mindfulness for Worriers. His daily mindfulness reminder is free by email. pomorain@yahoo.com @PadraigOMorain

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